In New York City, Sharing Broadband Infrastructure Takes on a New Dimension

Panelists from Stealth Communications and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners addressed operational and financial broadband

In New York City, Sharing Broadband Infrastructure Takes on a New Dimension

NEW YORK, November 6, 2023 – Expanding competitive broadband infrastructure in New York City is challenged by aging conduit access and difficulties attaching fiber lines to utility poles, experts said at a panel discussion here on Thursday.

In a discussion called “Building Beyond BEAD,” a reference to the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment grant program at VON Evolution, a tech and telecom summit, panelists highlighted the critical role of funding for digital infrastructure investment.

Joe Plotkin, business development director for New York fiber provider Stealth Communications, explained how the city’s underground conduit system dates back to the 1880s. This legacy infrastructure helps new entrants like Stealth run fiber by providing conduit access through an established system long occupied by incumbents like Verizon and Altice.

Above ground, pole attachment policies also stymie broadband competition, according to David Gilford, head of policy and strategic partnerships at Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, a company that builds technology-enabled infrastructure, backed by institutional investors including Alphabet.

Gilford advocated for greater sharing of “scarce” pole real estate among competitive carriers looking to deploy fiber and wireless infrastructure.

Plotkin and Gilford explored these challenges at a panel organized and moderated by Broadband Breakfast CEO Drew Clark at VON Evolution. They examined how private capital can help bridge broadband gaps as an alternative to, or extension beyond, government funding programs like the $42.5 billion BEAD initiative.

While BEAD will expand service to unserved and underserved areas, Plotkin noted it may have limited impact in locations deemed served. He gave the example of old apartment buildings in New York City that lack modern wiring, leaving residents with poor broadband options.

Gilford explained companies like SIP make investments in physical infrastructure like shared radio access networks and other wireless components. But his company does not build the lower-level fiber networks itself, instead partnering with both municipalities and private providers like Stealth.

Plotkin emphasized fiber remains the “gold standard” for reliable, high-capacity broadband versus other technologies like satellite. But innovations are still needed in running fiber the “last 50 feet” into residences and businesses, including affordably wiring older apartment buildings.

The panelists named immersive extended reality environments, two-way video calling, cloud computing and connected vehicles as emerging applications dependent on robust fiber and wireless networks.

Editor’s note: Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners makes investments in physical infrastructure like shared radio access networks and other wireless components, but does not actually invest in fiber routes or cell towers, as was stated in a prior version of this story. Additionally, SIP is not best described as a venture capital spin-off of Google, but as a technology-enabled builder of infrastructure backed by institutional investors including Alphabet. The story has been corrected.

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